Describe your latest book.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed is a book about the savage renaissance of public shaming that we've decided for some insane reason to inflict upon ourselves in this social media age. All my books are about crazy cruelty. But usually — as with my book Them — the crazy cruel people are a long way off. Now the crazy cruel people are us. This is a book that I hope will convince people to be more forgiving of the flaws of others.
Describe a recurring dream or nightmare.
Ah, thank you for asking. I have a recurrent dream in which I am pursued and declared a failure. Anyone who has read my book The Psychopath Test will know this means I suffer from Nightmare Disorder.
What scares you the most as a writer?
Oh God, everything. In fact, see the previous question. Making a mistake. Being unfair. Being boring. Ah. So much. Why are you asking me these terrible questions?
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
"Nothing skewers the heart with as much force as a period put in just the right place." –Raymond Carver.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Dogs. I have two. Floppy and Josie. Recently I was taking Floppy for a walk in New York City and a passerby said to his partner: "That dog has bad energy." But he was WRONG because Floppy has extraordinary energy.
Here's Floppy looking like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner:
And here's Josie looking like The Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Why do you write?
I once asked Randy Newman that question, and he said: "It's how I judge myself, and how I feel better."
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
I have received a lot of correspondence from self-professed psychopaths who have read my book The Psychopath Test. One of them told me he was tired of being malevolent and wanted to put his manipulation skills to positive use — by becoming a better church missionary.
How do you relax?
I wish I could.
Daniel Johnston — by the way — was a great inspiration for our film Frank (starring Michael Fassbender).
Five books that are respectful and kind to the kinds of marginalized/eccentric people that others might ignore or reject:
1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
2. Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar by Dori Hadar
This is the wonderful true story of a record collector who found 38 albums by a soul star he had never heard of and set about trying to track him down.
3. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic by James Gilligan
An important book about de-demonizing the "demons" among us. Gilligan has a beautiful line: "All violence is a person's attempt to replace shame with self-esteem."
4. Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B. S. Johnson by Jonathan Coe
A brilliant biography of an extremely experimental British novelist. You will love this book even if you have — like me — little interest in extremely experimental novelists. Jonathan Coe is a genius.
5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt